Soul-Making Dynamics (Excerpt)

In those unusual cases in which “spirit” is sharply defined in Western scriptures or teachings and distinguished from the soul, it refers to an otherworldly entity or pre-existent “divine spark” that abides within us as a gift from a higher being. In ancient times many Gnostic sects posited an indwelling pneuma that was trapped in the physical world, but perhaps the purest version of this notion emerges much later in liberal Quakerism, with its teaching of the “inward light,” re-baptized in the late nineteenth century as the “inner light” by the popular Quaker writer Rufus Jones. By some interpretations, it may also be said that traditional Chinese religion distinguished soul from the spirit, as yang and yin. The Egyptians at times distinguished the ka and the ba; the soul (ba) was not usually believed to be pre-existent, only the ka. The Egyptian Book of the Dead describes the judgment and then ascent of the ba into the next world without requiring a return to earth—a primitive version of our concept of an ascending personal soul.    — Byron Belitsos

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